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View Full Version : US dopers only: tattoo dilemma


jjimm
02-28-2007, 03:55 PM
An odd one this. I'm composing a reply to the following email from my little sister, who last year had a kitchen accident and burned her forearm quite badly:I have this really horrible scar on my arm that is giving me a complex. I am thinking about getting a tattoo - I ordinarily would not want one, but hate my burn mark more. What do you think? It will be really noticable if I wear a t-shirt. It is not an issue with working or anything like that. It is an issue with Mum and Dad!!!! It will cost me $200.00 for a tattoo, but $1500.00 to get it cosmetically removed! Tattoos are cheaper, and if it is between looking at this burn or a tattoo, I think I want a tattoo!The reason she's emailing me is that I have two tattoos, and have confessed one to my parents. I have my own opinion, that I'll express later, should you wish, but I don't have the US point of view. I shall bide my time replying until I've heard a few US opinions.

Possibly necessary background: she's in her early thirties, English, black, lives in a black middle class area in the Deep South, but works in a fairly badly paid job (she's an administrator and group carer for a charity that looks after mentally ill people).

So, US dopers, should she cover her scar with a tattoo?

WhyNot
02-28-2007, 03:58 PM
I'd say sure, but with the caveat that she's got to check it out with a tattoo artist. Scars take ink differently than regular skin, and black skin takes color differently than white skin. Some artists won't do scars at all. Some will do flat but not raised scars. She's going to have to ask around quite a bit, I expect, to find someone skilled with both black skin and scarring. She might want to find out if it's possible before she gets all angsty about the decision.

But for a woman her age to get a tatt is not at all counterculture or weird anymore.

Eureka
02-28-2007, 04:01 PM
No.

Disclaimer: I am not a person who has any tattoos or wants any. On the other hand, I wouldn't tell someone who had them that they'll regret thems someday-- so I like to think I'm not rabidly anti-tattoo.


Why I say no in this case:
I'd be very concerned about how well the scar would really take the tattoo. A good tattoo might be more appealing than the present scar but a bad tattoo is going to be worse. And I'd be really concerned that trying to cover up a bad burn scar is going to end up with that bad tattoo.

Miller
02-28-2007, 04:07 PM
I'm not clear why you want the opinion of Americans in particular.

XJETGIRLX
02-28-2007, 04:08 PM
Hell yeah, I think she should go for it! I mean, it's not like she's a kid. I'm all for taking a painful experience and turning it into something that makes you smile. I've always thought some of the coolest tattoos are the ones that are used to incorporate or cover scars into something beautiful that the wearer is proud to show off. Why shouldn't she do something that will make her feel more comfortable with herself?

jjimm
02-28-2007, 04:09 PM
I'm not clear why you want the opinion of Americans in particular.Because she lives in America.

Miller
02-28-2007, 04:17 PM
Because she lives in America.

Yeah, I saw that. I'm still confused.

jjimm
02-28-2007, 04:21 PM
Yeah, I saw that. I'm still confused.I'm an Englishman living and working in England. My sister lives and works in the US. Attitudes to visible tattoos at work/in general life may be different in US culture, specifically in the South, to those of the UK. Since I don't have an insight into US attitudes, I started this thread.

cher3
02-28-2007, 04:23 PM
How about the option of saving up for cosmetic surgery? I used to work with a man who had several large burn scars on his temple from childhood accident with an iron. A few years ago he finally decided to have them attended to and from what I saw it was very successful. I'm sure it was very costly in his case--being large facial scars and all, but maybe she could get the money together over time.

Rodd Hill
02-28-2007, 04:25 PM
Because she lives in America.

So not Newton Abbot, then.

gigi
02-28-2007, 04:29 PM
On Miami Ink they had a girl who wanted tattoos to cover scarring on her back, and they wouldn't do an area with a larger keloid scar.

Miller
02-28-2007, 04:31 PM
I'm an Englishman living and working in England. My sister lives and works in the US. Attitudes to visible tattoos at work/in general life may be different in US culture, specifically in the South, to those of the UK. Since I don't have an insight into US attitudes, I started this thread.

Ah, okay. Gotcha.

NajaNivea
02-28-2007, 05:05 PM
While I am heartily in favor of tattoing as a decoration of your skin, enhancement of beauty, or for spiritual reasons, I'm less inclined to feel good about the idea of getting a tattoo because it'll be "less displeasing" than what's currently there, or as a cheap solution. Tattoo work is very often an area where you definitely get what you pay for, and a forearm piece appropriate for cover-up work is going to be pricey, particularly if she does as she ought to, and finds an extremely experienced tattoo artist who's got an extensive portfolio involving cover-up work. As previously mentioned, scar tissue holds ink differently than normal skin and heavily pigmented skin even differently still. I would say if she really liked the idea of tattoo work, and spent a long time considering what image she wanted, then there's no good reason not to do it.
On the other hand, if what she really wants is for the scar to be gone, then what she really ought to do is save her pennies and have it fixed.

jjimm
02-28-2007, 06:31 PM
Thank you for all your responses so far.

Jayrot
02-28-2007, 06:39 PM
Well I can't speak to the South specifically, but tattoos here have become so common and trendy that I feel pretty safe in saying that the issue isn't really about US vs UK attitude on visible ink. The issue is what others have tackled already -- is getting ink to cover up or detract from a scar a good idea.

Contrary to as recent as five or ten years ago, having visible tattoos does not suggest any kind of gang association or rough/lifestyle anymore. Especially if it's just a design and not Gothic Manuscript font words.

tomndebb
02-28-2007, 07:07 PM
I have no strong opinions, but I have a whole list of questions.

Does she intend to get a design that she believes will either camouflage or distract from the scar? (I have a bit of difficulty believing that will work.)
Or does she intend to have the pink scar tissue tatooed to a shade closer to that of the surrounding skin? (She needs to check with a good tatooist (and, probably, a dermatologist), to see whether this option will actually work. (I suspect not.)

Is she in a permanent relationship and how does her spouse/SO feel about it?
Is she single but not intending to remain so forever? (Then she needs to find out how prospective mates in her social circle would react to either/both the scar and tatoo.)

What kind of feedback does she currently get from coworkers/family/neighbors/idjits-on-the-street regarding her scar? (In other words, is it something that is interfering with her life or something that better friends or a good counselor could help her get past? NOT that she is letting some "little thing" bother her needlessly, but that tatoos are sufficiently permanent that if "I ordinarily would not want one, but hate my burn mark more," it might be cheaper (initially and especially if she changes her mind) to change her attitude than her skin.)

(If she had not included the "ordinarily would not want one" comment, I would be more comfortable supporting a tatoo, but if the tatoo fails to do what she wants, she will have both the scar and the unwanted tatoo.)

Unregistered Bull
02-28-2007, 07:26 PM
It will look uglier than the scar. It will also look stupid. People will think that she has or once had extremely loose morals (or at least hung with a rough crowd) and quite possibly believe that her intelligence isn't very high.

One should always remember that the Dope isn't the real world. Most here hold Leftwing politically correct values, are generally young, and sexually promiscuous or in favor of sexual promiscuity without moral consequences. They tend to be hip or want to be hip and with current fads. Most Whites over 35 in the Deep South don't hold those values IMO. They don't hold them in West Texas either IMO.

Of course, I generally dislike tattoos. And the people that I know with them usually fall somewhere in the 1st paragraphs' descriptions. That doesn't mean that your sister is a dumb slut, just that she'll probably look like one.

Miller
02-28-2007, 07:40 PM
One should always remember that the Dope isn't the real world. Most here hold Leftwing politically correct values, are generally young, and sexually promiscuous or in favor of sexual promiscuity without moral consequences. They tend to be hip or want to be hip and with current fads.

And, of course, none of us exist in the real world.

:rolleyes:

Unregistered Bull
02-28-2007, 07:44 PM
And, of course, none of us exist in the real world.

:rolleyes:

I don't know if you can connect any opinion on internet to the real world, especially bulletin boards. Pick and choose what you like, I do know that most here will say go for it regardless of any possible consequences. At least I give a shit enough to describe the real possibility of negative consequences.

Caridwen
02-28-2007, 07:47 PM
bwahahahahahah!!!!

Oh wait, you were serious.

Antinor01
02-28-2007, 07:48 PM
I wouldn't reccommend a tattoo in her situation. Primarily because she says in her note that she doesn't really want one. I see no reason to do that permanent of an alteration to your body that you don't even really want.

tomndebb
02-28-2007, 08:01 PM
And, of course, none of us exist in the real world.Well, in fairness, Unregistered Bull represents the attitudes of far too many people in terms of his attitudes toward other posters on the SDMB. Regardless how unfounded and disconnected his expressions are from the genuine attitudes of a majority of SDMB posters, there is clearly a very large minority of people (perhaps even a majority in certain regions of the U.S.) who would share them.

Sal Ammoniac
02-28-2007, 08:51 PM
Possibly necessary background: she ... works in a fairly badly paid job (she's an administrator and group carer for a charity that looks after mentally ill people).
Crudely speaking, if she's not well paid, she's not really blighting her work prospects by getting a tattoo (unless she's thinking of suddenly changing to investment banking or the like). I can't imagine her employers would care at all, since hiring dedicated, competent people for low-paying positions can be challenging in the best of circumstances. The world of work is more open than it ever has been to alternate lifestyles (if getting a tattoo can even be said to be an alternate lifestyle; I suppose it would seem so to some).

Whether things are that much different in Atlanta than elsewhere, I can't say. But I do know that Atlanta has seen such an influx of people in recent years that I bet it's culturally closer to New Jersey these days than to the Old South. Maybe some Atlanta doper (Askia?) can weigh in.

WOOKINPANUB
02-28-2007, 09:24 PM
It will look uglier than the scar. It will also look stupid. People will think that she has or once had extremely loose morals (or at least hung with a rough crowd) and quite possibly believe that her intelligence isn't very high.

One should always remember that the Dope isn't the real world. Most here hold Leftwing politically correct values, are generally young, and sexually promiscuous or in favor of sexual promiscuity without moral consequences. They tend to be hip or want to be hip and with current fads. Most Whites over 35 in the Deep South don't hold those values IMO. They don't hold them in West Texas either IMO.

Of course, I generally dislike tattoos. And the people that I know with them usually fall somewhere in the 1st paragraphs' descriptions. That doesn't mean that your sister is a dumb slut, just that she'll probably look like one.

Wha .....? Wow. That's the rudest, most judgemental and frankly ignorant things I've read outside of the pit in a long time.

Moirai
02-28-2007, 09:35 PM
I saw a gal a few years back on a TV show who got a huge piece to cover her mastectomy scars. It became a very empowering thing for her (but that was the loss of boobies, not "just" a scar).

If a very reputable tattoo artist thought it could be done successfully and well, I might consider it.

WhyNot
02-28-2007, 09:37 PM
For those thinking you simply can't tattoo a scar and have it take, here's a link to a newspaper clipping which includes a picture of a tattoo over a mascectomy scar done 15 years ago. The woman's other breast is bare, so I'm not making it a clickable link: http:/ /tattooflash.info/TattooQuestions/09-Tattoing-over-scars/tattooing-over-scars-complete-article.jpg

Obviously, her goal was not to obscure the scar, but to decorate it. But there's a lot of scar tissue that took ink and shading quite well.

Some scars are very tattooable, especially nowadays with newer techniques and ink. Others are not. Only a tattoo artist looking at her particular scar can tell.

ETA: Hey, EJsGirl! Great minds, and all that. Is this the same woman you saw, do you think?

Moirai
02-28-2007, 09:47 PM
No, but it's a similar idea- the gal had a double radical, and got an intricate butterfly design over most pf her chest, IIRC. It was stunning and beautiful.

Moirai
02-28-2007, 09:52 PM
Here is an example, although not the one I'm thinking of-

http://www.triangletattoo.com/women.htm

WhyNot
02-28-2007, 09:57 PM
Thanks for the link! Those are beautiful, and a great example of how ideas and technology advances have made it so that a scar can often become invisible under a tattoo, if that's what you want to do with it.

pinkfreud
02-28-2007, 10:00 PM
Here is an example, although not the one I'm thinking of-

http://www.triangletattoo.com/women.htmWow, thanks for posting that! I have been considering having a tattoo placed on and around a surgical scar, and it gives me a boost just to know that it can be done.

WOOKINPANUB
02-28-2007, 10:02 PM
Oh, and jjiim , how sweet you are to turn to the Dope in order to help your sis. It sounds like her anguish over her scar needs addressing as much as the physicality of it does. As many others have widely suggested she really needs to consult with a qualified artist and possibly a dermatologist to see if it's feasible. I wish her the best!

Cartooniverse
02-28-2007, 10:47 PM
I would encourage her to speak to her surgeon first. Scar tissue is quite different than standard body tissue and even after a year, the scarring may not have completely stabilized.

The tattoo she gets today may look quite different in another year. And, I second the Dopers who ask if she's looking to match pigments or go for a decoration. I cannot imagine pigment matching will work, and the skin stretches and ages over time. A pigment match area will not look the same in a few years. ( I suppose no tattoo looks the same after a few years. )

Cartooniverse

Mirror Image egamI rorriM
02-28-2007, 10:53 PM
Scars also change over time, so her scar might eventually become less prominent. This also might change her tattoo, if she does tattoo over the scar tissue.

Here's some info from BME (http://iam.bmezine.com/qod4.exe?cmd=dosearch&q=tattoo+over+scar&subject=0&staff=0) about tattooing over scars.

Sublight
02-28-2007, 11:43 PM
...People will think...
A good rule of thumb is that whenever you hear the above phrase, replace "people" with "I".

Ignorance usually wants company, and will create it whole cloth if need be.

jjimm
03-01-2007, 02:33 AM
Actually, despite the negativity and the vehemence of responses to them, Unregistered Bull's comments are in fact valuable to me in my reply, and I thank him for his honesty. I welcome all shades of opinion here.

I think I'm going to get her to send me a picture of the scar, since I haven't yet seen it.

Tuckerfan
03-01-2007, 03:43 AM
At the foundry I used to work at, there was a black guy who'd get tattoos to cover the burns he got at work. I didn't even realize that's why he had them until he mentioned that they were cover up. As for your sister getting a tat, I can't think of any reason for her to not get one if she wants it.

Nava
03-01-2007, 03:58 AM
Not american, but has she talked with a dermatologist about whether the scar will fade? I had a largish burn scar that was around for about 10 years; I could see it all through the year but others only in the summer (I'm white, it was in the inside of the arm and when I got tanned it was lighter than the skin around it). Once it had been there a couple years, people would notice it veeeeeeery rarely even in the summer.

Now... well, if I insist I can say where it was but really, probably not even a dermatologist would be able to look at that forearm and say "oh look, a scar".

pbbth
03-01-2007, 04:26 AM
If she is getting the tattoo because she doesn't like the scar she needs to be prepared for the possibility that she won't be any happier with the tattoo. The scar will still be there and she will always know that. It may hide it from the general public but she will always know and be upset about/ashamed by/embarrassed of it. I say opt for removal over tattoo. If she goes with a tattoo though she needs to have researched it and found a design she can be happy with for the rest of her life and know that it will warp and change over time. Best of luck to her with such a hard decision.